The latest indestructible media meme is that Republicans are in disarray over Paul Ryan's proposed Medicare reform. "Republican rift widens on Medicare," write The Hill's Alexander Bolton and Julian Pecquet today. Their evidence of the ever-widening rift is that Senator Pat Toomey (R, Pa.) introduced a plan (see here and here) to balance the budget, and that plan does not include Ryan's long-term Medicare reform:
Toomey was asked why his budget didn't include Ryan's long-term plan to reform Medicare. "His goal is different than the goal we set for this budget," Toomey said. "His goal is long-term, it's permanent solvency, and he walks through structural reforms that achieve that."
"And if the bill comes to the Senate floor, I expect to vote for Paul Ryan's budget," Toomey continued. Other conservative senators at the press conference indicated they would also vote for the Ryan budget.
"I think most of us here support Paul Ryan's plan," said Senator Jim DeMint (R, S.C.), who emphasized that Ryan's reform doesn't touch Medicare in the 10-year budget window.
"I will vote for any plan that does three things," Senator Marco Rubio (R, Fla.) said. "Number one, that it saves Medicare, number two, that it does so in a way that doesn't hurt economic growth, and number three, that does it in a way that doesn't impact current beneficiaries."
Does Ryan's plan meet those requirements?
"I'm right there with Senator Rubio," said Senator Ron Johnson (R, Wisc.), who expressed support for "any plan" that properly solves our fiscal problems. Senator Mike Lee (R, Utah), the fifth senator present at the press conference, indicated that he would also vote for Ryan's budget.
These conservative senators have taken a similar approach as members of the House's conservative caucus (the Republican Study Committee) who introduced a plan to balance the budget in less than 10 years but also voted for Ryan's budget.
There has been some dissent among Republican lawmakers from Ryan's budget (but dissent has not been as great as many news reports have indicated). Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, for example, has said she'd vote against Ryan's budget. The irony is that Ryan's budget is arguably more moderate than any budget Collins would have to support in order to be consistent with her support for the Senate's proposed constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
All 47 GOP senators have cosponsored an amendment that requires the budget to be balanced within 5 years of ratification. Depending on how long ratification would take, they'd probably need to balance the budget some time in the next 10 years. Toomey's plan achieves balance in 9 years, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation (the Congressional Budget Office has not scored Toomey's proposal, a Toomey spokesman tells me). As Jim DeMint said today, the Toomey plan is meant to show that they have a credible plan to meet the requirements of the balanced budget amendment.